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On Deck: Rare Monk

By ; February 4, 2013 at 10:06 AM 

 Rare Monk_1

Rare Monk are in an unenviable place.  Their brand of intelligent, intensely personal indie rock has been so overused and abused that it takes something quite special for a band to differentiate itself among the glut of copycats and wannabes.  Thankfully, the Portland, OR five-piece are able to mine this section of music far better than most of their contemporaries and their understated and unexpected arrangements manage to impress, even as they turn traditional indie rock cliches on their head.  Checking off the now mandatory early Merge Records touchstones like Honor Role and Superchunk, Rare Monk surge through their influences, leaving no musical stone untouched.

Gearing up for the release of Sleep/Attack, their latest batch of songs following the release of the Death By Proxy EP last year and Astral Travel Battles in 2o11, the band took some time to sit down with Beats Per Minute and talk about a few records which hold a special place in each band member’s collection. Enjoy their choices in our latest installment of On Deck.


of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

Skeletal Lamping is a challenging, schizophrenic whirlwind that grabbed me at first listen. Ideas fly by at a staggering pace, with each track on the record encapsulating myriad sub-songs. Emotions shift from love to hate, agony to joy so quickly it’s hard to know what you’re even feeling. For some the mercurial nature of the songwriting is a turn-off (many people either love it to death or hate it to birth?). At times I wish they would camp on an idea for a bit longer because the part is just so good, but that would nullify the point of the album – a sudden, tender, violent release of pure emotion. Guess I’ll just have to press play again…


And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Source Tags & Codes
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Our Dead – Source Tags And Codes

Picked up this album in 2002 after hearing “Another Morning Stoner” and have been obsessed with it ever since. It is a lumbering beast of an album, with sweeping waves of sound accentuated with sporadic digressions of calm. It’s this balance of the chaotic and the cinematic that make “Source Tags and Codes”, in my opinion, Trail of Dead’s best record to date, produced enough to highlight the compositional beauty of these guys’ work but still with the aggressive bite of their earlier releases. In spite of this contrast, the songs flow into one another pretty much flawlessly and the record maintains a solid drive and purpose throughout. Although not the most mindblowing display of musicianship at times, the raw energy and execution of “Source Tags and Codes” make it one of the most awesomely raucous and unpretentious “indie rock” records to come out of the 2000s.


Sigur Ros - Agaetis byrjun
Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

For me this album was the first music I listened to that quite literally blew my mind. I think I was a sophomore in high school when someone showed me this album and it was unlike anything that I had ever heard. Lush orchestrations over huge ambient soundscapes, paving way for eerie, almost haunting, yet beautiful vocals. The use of ambient space in this album is incredible and was really influential for me as a musician. I have had many a good times with this album, listening to it in it’s entirety is almost like a personal journey and headphones are always recommended.


Yann Tiersen - Amelie soundtrack
Yann Tiersen – Amelie Soundtrack

Listening to this score is a nostalgic experience. Tiersen tugs at your heartstrings with somber piano tracks like “Comptine d’un autre ete” and in other moments rhythmic accordion lines whisk you away on an adventure. I really admire this piece of his work because it is so melodic and so seemingly simple. His use of toy pianos and typewriters as rhythm keepers remind me of being a kid. These sounds reinvigorate that great sense of wonder in the world that was so strongly felt during childhood.


Starfucker - Reptilians
Starfucker – Reptilians

Having listened to Josh Hodges since high school, I’ve always appreciated the simplicity of his style. Starfucker’s most recent album, Reptilians, maintains that simplicity but unlike his prior recordings, this one really makes you move. It sounds like M83 recorded in some dingy basement studio in Portland. Swirling synth hooks are backed by indie dance pop rhythms and the mood is seemingly light. All the while, Hodge’s lyrics focus on death, a common theme throughout his music. I always appreciate when the instrumental side of music stands in contradiction to the lyrical side. Hodge’s really outdid himself with this album.

Rare Monk’s upcoming album Sleep/Attack is set to be self-released on February 26th through the band’s website.

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